Why Do Some People Get Cataracts?
Patricia Zifferblatt | November 1, 2006

As the population continues to change and the average life span increases, one factor is becoming very evident: we’re living longer, but we’re not necessarily living well. People are experiencing illnesses and health conditions they never expected--one of them is developing cataracts in the eye. Let’s review what we know about this ever-increasing and treatable problem.

What exactly are cataracts?
Cataracts are described as “white, opaque blemishes on the transparency of the eye.” Cataracts are the leading cause of impaired vision and blindness in the U.S. today.

What are the symptoms of cataracts?
The first sign is a clouding or opaqueness that progresses in the eye, gradually causing a loss of vision. It’s very important for all adults to have regular eye check-ups before the cataracts begin to destroy one’s vision.

What causes them?
Some of the reasons people develop cataracts are exposure to sunlight, smoking, and poor dietary habits. These white spots can occur as a result of free-radical damage or oxidative stress damaging the lens of the eye.

How can I prevent cataracts?
Recent research has shown that when people wear protective sunglasses outdoors (both winter and summer), do not use tobacco products, and eat a diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables, the chance of cataracts developing is diminished. To safeguard your sight, follow these recommendations:
  • Get eye exams on a regular basis and report any vision changes to your doctor.

  • Don’t smoke.

  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid foods that are high in saturated fat and sugar.

  • Supplement daily with vitamins C, E, and carotene, in addition to the mineral selenium.

  • Don’t put away your sunglasses just because summer’s over--your eyes still need protection.

  • Live long and well regardless of your age!
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